Subsistence Department report.
Arlington, Va., Aug. 2, 1861.Captain: For the information of the general commanding the Department, I have the honor to submit the following report in reference to the subsistence of the army under his command during its recent operations in front. On the 15th ult., the commanders of divisions were directed to see that all the troops of their respective commands have cooked and in their haversacks by 3 P. M. if. the next day three days rations; and orders were given that five days additional subsistence should be loaded into wagon-trains on the day of march, and follow the army on the day succeeding, and that a specified number of beef cattle should be driven forward with each train. Owing to the necessary number of wagons not being furnished in season, to uninstructed and many worthless teamsters and green teams, and to some of the roads being bad, only one of the trains, that in charge of First Lieut. J. P. Hawkins, 2d Infantry, A. A. C. S., was able to overtake the army on the morning of the 18th. It, with 90 head of beef cattle, by travelling all the previous night, arrived at Fairfax Court House on the morning stated, before the army had taken up its march. During the morning, while the army was moving forward to Centreville, it was thought the other subsistence trains, in charge of First Lieutenants G. Bell, 1st Artillery, James Curtis, 15th Infantry, intended for Col. Heintzelman's and Gen. Tyler's divisions, respectively, would not reach the army in season, and I was directed to distribute the subsistence in the train present as equally as possible among the several divisions. Fourteen wagons, containing about 17,000 rations, were sent in charge of Lieut. Hawkins to the 5th division; the remaining wagons were directed to immediately proceed to Centreville, and I had made the best arrangements in my power to distribute the provisions they contained among the other three divisions. Shortly after our arrival at Centreville I was officially informed that the train, with 65 head of beef cattle, in charge of Lieut. Curtis, was in the vicinity, and the train, with to head of beef cattle, in change of Lieut. Bell, was at Fairfax Court House. I then directed the first of these trains to come forward to Centreville and encamp for the night, and the second to come forward with as little delay its possible, and myself conducted the remaining wagons of Lieut. Hawkins's train, and turned them over to the officer (Lieut. Merrill) directed by Gen. Tyler to receive and distribute to the 1st division the subsistence stores they contained. I endeavored to distribute the subsistence stores equally among the several divisions, according to the strength of each; but in consequence of the necessity of breaking up the train in charge of Lieut. Hawkins, which was intended for the divisions of Colonels Miles and Hunter, and the late arrival of the others, difficulties arose, and I may not have succeeded in my object. Making due allowance for all losses on the march, according to the reports of the officers conducting the trains, and my own observation, at least (160,000) one hundred and sixty thousand complete rations were received by the army at and in the vicinity of Centreville-sufficient for its subsistence for five days. In a circular from Department Headquarters, dated at Centreville, July 20, 1861, commanders of divisions were directed to give the necessary orders that an equal distribution of the subsistence stores on hand might be made immediately to the different companies in their respective commands, so that they should be provided with the same number of days' subsistence and that the same be cooked and put into the haversacks of the men, and they were informed that the subsistence stores there in possession of each division, with the fresh beef that could be drawn from the chief commissary, must last to include the 23d inst. The three days subsistence it was directed the troops should have in their haversacks by 3 P. M., on the 16th of July, should have lasted them to the afternoon of the 19th. After the distribution made in compliance with the circulars above referred to, I know of several instances in which subsistence stores remained in possession of division and brigade commissaries, and of others in which provisions were left on the ground of the encampments on the morning of the 21st of July. From personal observation on the march, on the morning of the 21st of July, I know that, generally, the haversacks of the men were filled — whether properly or not, I do not know. Regimental officers should be held accountable for that. During the battle, and following it, I noticed many filled haversacks, canteens, blankets, and other property, lying on the ground, their owners having doubtless thrown them away to get rid of the labor of carrying them on so hot a day, and under such trying circumstances. I beg leave to call your attention to the reports of Lieutenants Bell, Hawkins, and Curtis. The duties they performed were highly important, and all who are acquainted with the difficulties under which they labored and overcame, will know that they acted with judgment and energy, and for the best interests of the Government. I am, sir, very respectfully,